Five friends recently learned a lesson in patience. After launching a GoPro-fitted weather balloon above the Grand Canyon in 2013 and promptly losing contact with it, they finally got to see the footage it captured just a few weeks ago.
The contraption the team sent into the air included a GoPro Hero3, Sony camcorder, and a Samsung Galaxy Note II. Recently, an AT&T employee out for a hike found the phone and brought it to a store. The carrier was able to identify its owner via the SIM card, and return it—with its stunning footage intact.
One of those friends then posted a stunning photo of Arizona's famed national park on Reddit, and provided more details about its capture.
After months of planning, and the near cancellation of the project due to the high cost of helium, the group cast a their balloon—with a GPS-enabled smartphone and GoPro camera—into space two years ago.
"We planned our June 2013 launch at a specific time and place such that the phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage," the team member, known as trexarmsss, wrote. "The problem was that the coverage map we were relying on (looking at you, AT&T) was not accurate."
As a result, the phone, which boasted a GPS receiver for tracking more than 100,000 feet, never received a signal as it came back to Earth, and was unable to communicate with the team.
The friends assumed their trajectory model was off, and the package landed in a signal dead zone. On the contrary, their model was "actually quite accurate," trexarmsss said, and the device landed about 50 miles from its launch point.
The team—Bryan Chan, Ved Chirayath, Ashish Goel, Tyler Reid, and Paul Tarantino—also published a "Space Balloon Story" video (above), highlighting launch prep, data analysis, and, of course, footage of the Grand Canyon (and other areas of the country) from the stratosphere.
"One hell of a view!" camera maker GoPro wrote in a YouTube comment. "It could only be made better in 4K and we'd love to hook you up with a HERO4 Black for your next flight."